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Bellator 254 predictions, preview for ‘Macfarlane vs Velasquez’

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane
Bellator MMA

Bellator 254: “Macfarlane vs. Velasquez” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., tomorrow evening (Thurs., Dec. 10, 2020), airing on CBS Sports Network. The Flyweight title is on the line as two undefeated fighters are about to square up.

Let’s break it down:

125 lbs.: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0) vs. Juliana Velasquez (10-0)

In a normal year, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane would have defended her crown at least once by now, but 2020 has been anything but a normal year. At least as we near its end we can see some semblance of normalcy with the return of “Ilimanator” in a title defense. With two knockout wins and six submissions on her flawless record, Macfarlane usually makes it look easy in the cage, but that’s only because she works so damn hard outside it. Her 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu training makes her a monster on the ground, but her striking has steadily improved to the point that she split Veta Arteaga like a coconut at Bellator 220.

Ouch ...

The undefeated Juliana Velasquez is one of the most worthy title challengers she’s faced. She’s durable in decisions (50 percent of her wins) but also devastating with strikes (40 percent) as seen when she massacred Kristina Williams. Her record may speak for itself, but the fact there’s no “O” next to her name speaks for the fact she hasn’t faced Macfarlane. “Ilimanator” lives up to the nickname by eliminating one contender after another to the point that it takes a year or so to build one up for her to mow down. At this point as good as Velasquez is she’s also the only who can face Macfarlane with a double digit record of experience.

Is the training from Team Nogueira and her formidable amount of experience enough for the 34-year-old Velasquez to knock off the 30-year-old Macfarlane? In a word — no. When we’ve seen Macfarlane truly be tested in a title fight we’ll have a reason to doubt her. Perhaps Velasquez will make history and be the first person to hand her a loss, but the one thing opponents always underestimate is Macfarlane’s tenacity and ferocity. She may be small at 5’5”, but her opponent is only 5’6,” so this fight will be right in her wheelhouse.

Final prediction: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane via first round submission

135 lbs.: Magomed Magomedov (16-1) vs. Matheus Mattos (12-1-1)

The across the board alliteration of their names may be strange, but these Bantamweights are no strangers to winning. Magomed Magomedov is a M-1 Challenge and ACB veteran bringing a three-fight win streak to the cage, with two of his last three being finished by guillotine choke. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he hasn’t fought since 2018. Will “ring rust” be a factor? Fortunately he’s only 28 years old so he hasn’t aged terribly with a couple of years off, but his opponent Matheus Mattos is also 28 and his only professional loss to date was to current UFC champion Petr Yan. He, too, has been sidelined for two years so it’s a bit of a toss up trying to figure out who really has the advantage here.

Final prediction: Matheus Mattos via split decision

265 lbs.: Linton Vassell (19-8) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7)

After a three-fight losing streak nearly sent him packing, “The Swam” Linton Vassell made a big statement by knocking out Sergei Kharitonov in the main event of Bellator 234. There may yet by life in the former Light Heavyweight’s move up to a bigger class, one which I’ve said all along better suits his impressive 6’4” and 82-inch reach frame. His opponent, Ronny Markes, has been chomping at the bit for a fight though — twice expected to face Josh Barnett only to have that fight ultimately fall apart. Both have been sidelined for more than one year so they’re equally primed to come out and make a statement in this bout, but after his own mediocre PFL run my feeling is that Vassell has more upside going into 2021.

Final prediction: Linton Vassell via second round technical knockout

265 lbs.: Davion Franklin (2-0) vs. Anthony Garrett (4-2)

What was previously scheduled to be a Goiti Yamauchi vs. Nate Andrews bout for the main card fell apart when Goiti Yamauchi followed a “Platinum” weight cutting plan. What better solution than to turn to two fighters who aren’t worried about tipping the scales? In fact, “All Day” Davion Franklin came in right under the limit at 264 pounds, so if he was cutting weight he’d be absolutely gigantic in the cage. The Jackson-Wink prospect is saying all the right things about his maturation in their camp, but he can’t afford to take the more experienced Anthony Garrett lightly (pun intended). If the name seems familiar it’s because Garrett was brought in to face Jake Hager, but the fight ended in a very unfortunate “No Contest.” For the sake of his future children I hope this experience is more pleasant for him, but I still favor Franklin’s size, strength and training regimen going in.

Final prediction: Davion Franklin via first round knockout

That’s a wrap! will deliver coverage of Bellator 254 tomorrow evening on CBS Sports Network. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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